Today is your 18th birthday. You may not totally realize how special this is, but trust me, it’s special. Today will go by quickly, as most days do, and before you know it you will wake up and have a career and a family of your own and wonder how 18 got left behind. You will look in the mirror at 20, 30, and 40 and feel pretty much the same but see a changing face in front of you. Maybe a few wrinkles, maybe a few gray hairs, but no matter how old you get, some of us will still see your blonde hair on a little tiny frame walking into memaw’s kitchen. We see that because we love you, but we recognize that you are becoming an adult. We recognize that you can always hold our hands, but never quite in the same way as you did as a toddler. Growing up is exciting, but it’s also hard.
Your 18 is unique. The year you are looking at doesn’t look like any senior year we envisioned. Today I will drop off a gift on your porch, and I will try not to cry when I drive away without being able to hug you. You are possibly missing big events like senior prom and graduation and there’s no other way to put it, that’s just sad. Those are important things but because this is such a unique year, whatever replaces those events or however they are altered, it will mean more than it ever would have before because now it’s more special, more valued, more anticipated, and more appreciated. I can say with certainty that there are some people right now in your graduating class who you will never see again after graduation. Let that sink in because in a small town, sometimes it’s hard to grasp that. Reach out to your classmates, even some people you usually don’t talk to. Think about what that would feel like; never seeing a person again after you went to school with them every year since elementary school. People move for college, for jobs, for relationships, and they don’t all come back. Think about that now while you have the time and stay connected however you can.
My birthday wish for you is that you think about what you are gaining, instead of what you are losing. You have time with your family that we couldn’t have predicted. I know it might sound crazy to you now, but trust me, someday you will wish you had more time with your brothers before you are all married and taking care of more responsibilities than you ever thought you wanted or could manage. Keep spending time with your dad. He is so special and so important. And keep loving your mom and trying to get her to slow down. You are their little girl and no one else will love them the way that you do.
If you don’t get to walk across a stage this year, just know that you have been walking on our stage since the day you were born. We have been yelling out your name and cheering for you every moment. We have been watching with pride every step down the path to 18. You are loved, and celebrated, no matter what. Happy 18th Birthday!